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The Origins of the World's Mythologies
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Table of Contents

Contents ; 1 Introduction ; 1.1 What is myth, how do we study and compare it? ; 1.2 Definition; study of myth in the past ; 1.3 Comparative mythology ; 1.4 Laurasian mythology: establishing the common origin of the mythologies of Eurasia and the Americas ; 1.5 Earlier explanations of myth ; 1.6 Ur-forms, history, and archaeology ; 1.7 Summary ; 2 Comparison and Theory ; 2.1 Theory and practice of comparisons ; 2.2 Reconstructing Laurasian mythology ; 2.2.1 Similarities ; 2.2.2 Regular correspondences and establishment of a unified narrative scheme ; 2.2.3 Oldest texts to be used ; 2.2.4 Geographically dispersed items ; 2.2.5 Reconstruction of the Laurasian common story line and individual myths ; 2.3 Enhancing the reconstruction: local, regional, macro-regional, and subcontinental variations ; 2.4 Reconstructing the Laurasian mythological system and inherent problems ; 2.5 Structure and content in some macro-areas of Laurasian myth. ; 2.5.1 Macro-areas ; 2.5.2 The Four ages in the Eurasian and Meso-American macro-areas ; 2.5.3 Later centers of innovations ; 2.5.4 Late borrowings (diffusion) ; 2.6 Some objections to the approach of historical comparative mythology ; 2.7 Conclusion ; 3 Creation Myths: The Laurasian Story Line, Our First Novel ; 3.1 Primordial Creation ; 1. Chaos and darkness 2. Water 3. Earth diver and floating earth 4. Giant 5. Bull 6. Egg 7. Combined versions ; 3.2 Father Heaven, Mother Earth ; 3.3 Separation of heaven and earth, the prop ; 3.4. Creation of land ; 3.5 The demiurge or trickster ; 3.5.1 Creation of light ; 3.5.2. The slaying of the dragon ; 3.5.3 The theft of fire and of the heavenly drink ; 3.6 Generations, Four Ages and five suns ; 3.7 The creation of humans ; 3.8 Descent of 'noble' lineages ; 3.9 The flood ; 3.10 Heroes ; 3.11 The final destruction ; 3.12 Summary ; 4 The Contributions of Other Sciences: comparison of language, physical anthropology, genetics, archaeology ; 4.1. Linguistics ; 4.2 Physical anthropology ; 4.3. Genetics ; 4.3.1 Recent advances in human population genetics ; 4.3.2 Overview of recent developments ; 4.3.3 Out of Africa ; 4.3.4 Movement northward after the last two Ice Ages ; 4.3.5 Genetics, language and mythology ; 4.3.6 Summary and outlook ; 4.4. Archaeology ; 4.4.1 Cave paintings and plastic art ; 4.4.2 Sacrifice in Late Palaeolithic art ; 4.4.3 Food production ; 4.4.4 Domestic animals and pastoralism ; 4.5 Other items of comparison: children's songs and games; ancient music and regional styles; use of colors; gestures and their regional variations. ; 4.6. Conclusions resulting from the comparison of the sciences involved ; 5 The Countercheck: Australia, Melanesia, sub-Saharan Africa ; 5.1 Possible ways to countercheck ; 5.1.1 Method ; 5.1.2 Criteria for testing the theory ; 5.1.3 Diffusion vs genetic relationship ; 5.1.4 Later additions ; 5.2 Beyond Laurasia: Gondwana mythology ; 5.3. Gondwana mythologies ; 5.3.1 Sub-Saharan Africa, the Andamans, New Guinea, Australia and Tasmania - an overview ; 5.3.2 Australia ; 5.3.2.1 Tasmania ; 5.3.3. Melanesia ; 5.3.3.1 Negritos and other southern remnant populations ; 5.3.4 Andaman Islands ; 5.3.5 Africa ; 5.3.5.1 Remnant populations: San and Pygmies ; 5.3.5.2 Sub-Saharan Africa ; 5.3.5.3 Northern influences: the western North-South highway ; 5.3.5.4 The eastern North-South Highway ; 5.3.6 Summary ; 5.4. Individual Gondwana myth types and their common characteristics ; 5.5 Secondary influences on Gondwana mythology ; 5.6. Conflicting myths in Gondwanaland ; 5.6.1 Gondwana element in Laurasian myth ; 5.6.2 Laurasian elements in Gondwana myth ; 5.7 Countercheck of Laurasian mythology based on Gondwana mythology ; 5.7.1 Essential features of Gondwana and Laurasian mythology ; 5.7.2 The flood myth in world wide perspective ; 6 First Tales: Pan-Gaean Mythology ; 6.1 Beyond Laurasia and Gondwana: common myths ; 6.2 Our first tales ; 7 Laurasian Mythology in Historical Development ; 7.1 Late Palaeolithic religion ; 7.1.1 Late Palaeolithic shamanism ; 7.1.2 Sacrifice ; 7.2. Changes from Palaeolithic to state societies ; 7.3. Dating Gondwana and Laurasian mythology ; 8 Outlook ; 8.1 The meaning of Laurasian Mythology ; 8.2 Beyond Laurasia, Gondwana and Pan-Gaia ; 8.2.1 Persistence of myth ; 8.2.2 Some reasons ; 8.3 Epilogue

About the Author

Wales Professor of Sanskrit, Harvard University

Reviews

His novel approach brings a different perspective to the myths he analyzes. By all rights, this book should provoke debate and is, therefore, indispensable to any research library ... Essential. * G.J. Reece, CHOICE * A radical idea. * Steve Connor, The Independent *

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